Book Talk: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: The Kiss Quotient by Helen HoangThe Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Series: The Kiss Quotient #1
Published by Berkley on June 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

Hype makes me nervous to read books, but this is one of those times where the hype absolutely failed to do this book justice. As with The Hating Game, there was basically no way for the hype to be too high to affect this book negatively for me. If I want anything from publishing (which lol I want a LOT of things from publishing), then what I currently want most is more romances like this that are sexy, smart, and incredibly well-written. Most contemporary romances aren’t like The Kiss Quotient, but I am so fucking happy this book exists.

Stella Lane, the heroine, has Asberger’s (Own Voices, fyiiiiii), and, though she’s tried to figure out this sex and romance thing, she has not been successful. Sex disgusts her, and no one ever wants to be in a relationship with her. She’s happy with her work and her routines, but her parents are pressuring her to date, to marry, to have babies. As much as Stella may come off to others as brash, because she’s always honest, or rude, she really wants to make others happy, so she begins to consider dating.

When the douchebag at the office her parents recommended for her and who she thinks might be at a good match tells her she needs to practice sex before she’ll land a boyfriend (he’s such a prick—let me at ‘im), she takes that advice to heart. And hires a male escort to teach her how to be good at sex. Stella has always felt unlovable, but now she’s been given a concrete explanation why, so she sets out to fix this knowledge gap with the determination, focus and work ethic that makes her so brilliant at econometrics.

Now I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure about the whole Pretty Woman romance set-up, because there’s such a power imbalance in a relationship where one person is being paid for sex. However, The Kiss Quotient is super aware of that, and both circumstances and character development unfold in a way as to make that really not feel like an issue. From the beginning, Stella doesn’t treat Michael like an object or like he’s beneath her, because that’s not the way Stella sees the world; it would be a better world if we were more like Stella.

We have Michael’s POV too, which normally doesn’t work for me in romance, but which pays major dividends here. His POV really works for me, a bit of hard edge without being over-the-top. It’s also important to have a view into where his mind is in this scenario, and we can see from the beginning how much he doesn’t look down on her either. He’s confused by some aspects of what she’s doing, but he likes her and wants to help, even if that will hurt him.

The sex scenes in this book are phenomenal, both because their chemistry is off the charts, but because of all the early scenes where Stella is not ready. Something you basically never see in romance is sex that isn’t good or where the couple doesn’t have sex because one or the other partner is terrified, and, actually, when I have read the latter it’s usually been the guy who puts the brakes on. I relate so incredibly hard to a lot of Stella’s issues with sex, and it was so validating to not feel alone in that.

The fact that Michael seems to just have a natural ability to get through Stella’s discomfort with touch might bother me except for two things. First, I have learned that our bodies do try to tell us who we’re compatible with, and there are people you just naturally feel more comfortable around. Ignoring those signals leads to all the discomfort, self-loathing, and fears of being broken that Stella exhibits at the start of the book. Which leads to serious performance anxiety, something that, yes, women can have too. Second, Michael doesn’t get through Stella’s barriers all that quickly. The main thing Stella needs is time to adjust, for someone to move slowly and not judge her, and he gives her that.

Part of how I can tell this book is amazing is that I shipped the hell out of this couple in spite of so many tropes I usually don’t like, and they’re not even particularly bantery. In that way, this book reminds me heavily of The Hating Game, though narratively they’re not similar at all. It’s just that Stella and Michael really do feel like a perfect match for one another. Also, because of the unique scenario they’re in, certain things, like the confusion caused by not communicating their feelings, make more sense than they usually do.

I love this book so goddamn much, and I’m going to be ordering a copy ASAP. I cannot wait for The Bride Test. From his first introduction, I was hoping Khai would get a romance too, along with basically everyone else in Michael’s family because they’re massively wonderful.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

6 responses to “Book Talk: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang”

  1. My friend who reads almost nothing but romance books recommended this to me but I was still hesitant. I’m definitely reading it after your review though. 🙂 I’ll take anything even remotely similar to The Hating Game.
    Bonnie @ For the Love of Words recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday – Cross Her Heart by Sarah PinboroughMy Profile

  2. Your review captures the book so perfectly! It could have gone wrong a hundred times but the author writes the scenarios and characters with such care and empathy (and chemistry!). I really loved both Stella and Michael and am super glad I gave in to the hype too!
    Morgan @ The Bookish Beagle recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 So FarMy Profile

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